Parenting during and after separation and divorce is one of the most sensitive major topics in family law. The law assumes that it is in the best interest of the child to have as much time with each parent as possible. With limited exceptions, it is becoming rarer to have one parent with exclusive parenting time.
If negotiating with your spouse on the schedule, logistics, and parenting decision of the children is unsuccessful, you can bring an application to the court for a judge to rule on these matters. A judge can make parenting orders that allocate parenting time, pick up and drop off procedures, and decision-making responsibility.
People other than spouses, for example, grandparents or adult siblings, can apply to the court for a contact order. Contact orders are ideal for family members seeking to have a relationship with the child.
When granting a parenting order or a contact order, the judge will consider what is in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child is a broad term that considers various factors including:
1. The Child
The child’s age, stage of development, and need for stability will be considered. The child’s preference is important but will be given different weight depending on their age and maturity.
Generally, the younger the child, the earlier in the stage of development of the child, the higher need for parental supervision will be required.
Any relevant relationship will be considered. These include grandparents, siblings, and other family members.
If there are other children, there is generally a strong preference for the children to spend as much time together as practicable. This results in many children living together and being taken care of by the same parent.
Grandparents and other family members may demonstrate that one parent has support to help raise the child.
3. The Parent
The ability and willingness of the parent to care for and meet the needs of the child. Additionally, the willingness to communicate and co-operate with the former spouse to raise the child. This includes the parent’s willingness for the child to have a relationship with the child’s other parent.
If a parent historically took on the responsibility of caring for the child, the court may consider this as a factor in determining the best interest of the child.
4. Violence and Other Inappropriate Behavior
Violence includes a consideration of the nature of the violence, how frequently the violence occurred, the severity of the violence, and if the safety of the child or any family member was compromised.
Inappropriate behavior is related to the home environment and includes coercive behavior, controlling tendencies, and acts that caused fear for the safety of the child or other family members.
Once granted, parenting orders can be adjusted due to unforeseen circumstances in life or if steps are taken to rehabilitate the relationship. If you are seeking to adjust the amount of time you have with your child, ask us how we can help.